I have conflicting feelings about Valentine’s Day. On the one hand I find the consumerism a real romantic turn off but on the other hand I think it’s wonderful to have a day in the calendar where love is celebrated. I’ve always found love, romance and relationships the most fascinating of subject matter so books, music, art and films that deal with them in some way never fail to interest me. However I do prefer films that deal with relationships in a more realistic way rather than romcoms or the overly romantic ‘slushy’ types!! All of the films on this list show us that relationships, even the really good ones, are far from perfect. Some of these films are dark or sad, others hilariously funny and some are even tragic but they all confirm that love really can change life, and people, for the better…..
The fabulous Cher plays Loretta who is engaged to decent and sensible Johnny Cammereri. However she can’t ignore her ever deepening feelings for his far more exciting and broody brother Ronny, played by Nicholas Cage. This is a great story about being true to yourself and your feelings even if it means going against the status quo.There is a fantastic supporting cast including Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia. The chemistry between Cher and Cage is electric and there are plenty of very funny moments in there too.
Walk the Line (2005)
A biopic of the late great Johnny Cash but one that puts his relationship with June Carter centre stage. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon make a fine job of capturing these two country legends onscreen. They had one of the strongest and most enduring relationships in the music business and if you watch this movie it’s easy to see why. Hard to imagine how Cash would have even survived beyond his forties had it not been for Carter and her family, let alone leave such an amazing legacy of music.
The Painted Veil (2006)
Based on a novel by Somerset Maugham this is the story of an idealistic young doctor (Edward Norton) who marries a high society girl (Naomi Watts). They relocate to Hong Kong where he battles a cholera epidemic and life for his new bride is very different from the privileged one she left behind. Their marriage is tested by infidelity on both sides but the hardships they encounter manage to bring them closer than they thought possible.
Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara were Oscar nominated for their moving performances in this story of repression and persecution in 1950s America. Blanchett is the well heeled Carol who has long buried her true sexuality in a marriage to an influential New Yorker. But when she begins a relationship with young and confused shopgirl Therese (Mara) they take risks which lead to Carol almost losing everything including her young daughter.
A biopic of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo starring Salma Hayek. This story centres around the most significant relationship in Kahlo’s life her marriage to Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). Although they went through many ups and downs including illness, infidelities, multiple miscarriages, and even divorcing and remarrying each other, Rivera always remained Kahlo’s champion. As a feminist way ahead of her time his admiration and respect for her both as a woman and an artist never wavered.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
This is a story that uses the device of time travel to explore how all of our relationships, even the ones that don’t last, can have a lasting effect. Adeline (Blake Lively) has a freak accident involving a lightening storm which leaves her ageless. She passes through the decades unchanged with her daughter, the only one who knows her secret, out-aging her. A chance encounter with an old love (Harrison Ford) leads her to experience love once again. This is almost like a more sophisticated (and less weepy!) version of The Time Traveller’s Wife.
The African Queen (1951)
Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn are reason enough for watching this movie and it was also directed by the wonderful John Huston. The story is an adventure/romance and a forerunner of the Romancing the Stone movies of the 1980s. But this film is particularly special because of the age of the protagonists. Charlie and Rose are not star crossed young lovers but they are both well past middle age. This doesn’t mean the passion is any less intense though and the fact that they are complete opposites makes the first half of the movie a ‘will they, won’t they’ affair.
The Remains of the Day (1993)
Based on the Booker prize winning novel by Kazuo Ishiguro this stars Anthony Hopkins in one of his finest roles. Hopkins play Stevens a butler so dedicated to a life of servitude to his employer the politically dubious Lord Darlington that he completely suppresses the obvious feelings he has for head housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). There is so much left unsaid in this film it can be difficult to watch at times and you often want to reach through the screen and shake the repressed Stevens as he lets his chance of happiness slip away.
In and Out (1997)
Kevin Kline is Howard Brackett a strait laced English teacher living a seemingly perfect life in idyllic small-town Indiana. However he is in complete denial about his sexuality. So much so that when ex student Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon) thanks him for inspiring his role as a gay soldier as part of his Oscar acceptance speech Brackett’s life is thrown into chaos. His parents, friends and fiancée Emily (the hilarious Joan Cusack) are convinced that Drake has made a huge mistake but Brackett begins to wonder how he will ever come out to his small town community without losing their love and friendship. This is feel good comedy at his best with an amazing cast including Tom Selleck and Debbie Reynolds. Packed with real laugh out loud moments.
On Golden Pond (1981)
This is a beautiful study of a married couple whose relationship has moved into old age. Their daughter has long left home and returns to spend some time at their lakeside holiday home with her fiancé and stepson. There are a number of relationships explored in this story father/daughter, grandson/grandfather and mother/daughter but it is the marriage between Norman and Ethel, played so authentically by Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, that is so heart warming to watch. If you are the type of person who hopes to grow old with your partner then this film is sure to move you.